By SARAH DOOLITTLE, Four Points News
When Steiner Ranch residents George and Danielle Deuillet look into each other’s eyes, the mutual admiration between them is palpable. After 13 years of marriage they share a tight circle of love that includes one another, their family, their friends, and their faith in God.
In December, however, the family of four was handed a challenge that could strengthen or destroy the tightest of bonds, the deepest of faith. Their challenge? Cancer, which has found a formidable opponent in George Deuillet III.
A very hard year
George, 46, who has dealt with bouts of genetically inherited melanoma since the age of 22 — including a Stage III growth on his neck in November of 2012 — was diagnosed in December 2013 with Stage IV melanoma that has metastasized to his brain and several internal organs.
The diagnosis was one in a string of blows that plagued the family last year. In addition to the Stage III growth, the family was in an accident on I-35 South in June that totaled their car. In July, George and a friend were sailing on Lake Travis when a drunk driver in a power boat hit their sailboat, splitting it in two. Then came the new diagnosis in December.
With each misfortune, though, came a silver lining. The old growth was removed. The car accident left them mostly unscathed when paramedics said it should have been fatal. And while their boat was totaled, both men were uninjured. There was even a brand new chemotherapy drug released in January, just in time for George’s treatment.
Also with each loss came a lesson for a family that has shown a humble faith in what they see as God’s plan and purpose. He said, “one of the pastors at church said, ‘It’s just one step at a time. Don’t look at the big picture, you can’t look at that — the what-ifs, and three years down the road what’s the situation going to be like, or whatever. Just do it one step at a time.’”
A model man
When Danielle describes her husband, it is with deep admiration for his character. “He’s the kind of person… when he meets people,I’m very shy, (and) he’s the social one in our family. He can talk to anybody. He’s always right there to lend a hand to anybody even if he doesn’t know them.”
George gives credit to his parents and upbringing, calling them true Christians who are strong in their faith and values.
Danielle paraphrases a favorite song, “God puts windows in the world that his light shines through. And there’s certain people who are windows. I think that’s how (George) is.”
To which George, with customary modesty, can only say, “Wow.”
Keeping their family strong
For the Deuillet’s two children — Skyler in pre-K and Dylan in 4th grade at Steiner Ranch Elementary — their dad’s illness requires them to adjust to a new pace of life. They have learned the pleasure of quieter times with dad, whether doing a puzzle in bed or just sitting together on the couch.
George is modest even when no one is watching. When asked what he prays for, he answers that first, “I say thank you, then I pray for others, and then, by the way, heal me. Amen.”
So it is with pride that Danielle describes her daughter’s similarly patient prayers in the face of cancer’s obstacles. “We had to cancel plans for Disney, it was a big deal,” Danielle explains. “So it was cute, because our five-year-old, every time we pray or with dinner, she would say ‘Just please heal my dad in time for Disney.’”
And then the time they set aside for Disney came and went, and now Skyler prays. “Just please heal dad. I’m waiting for you to heal daddy. And I know you’re busy healing other people, and we’re going to be patient.”
Danielle has twice the reasons to feel impatient. Not only is her husband sick, her mother — who lives with Danielle’s family in Hawaii — is also currently fighting cancer. “She has been a huge support for us and worries more about George than herself… Besides her amazing faith, she has taught me how to be strong and hold a family together, even in tough times.”
To help hold herself together during these tough times, when Danielle needs to express her grief and fear, “Screaming into clothes in the closet works,” she says with a laugh.
Laughter, in fact, seems pretty common in the Deuillet household, regardless of their otherwise “interesting experiences” as Danielle describes their series of calamities.
“(All of this) makes us realize day-to-day how silly the stupid stuff in life is that you waste time getting upset over, how trivial that stuff is,” she said. “That’s definitely been a lesson for me through all our interesting experiences last year. You see the blessings in it. Everything can always be worse.”
“It gives you a thankful heart,” George adds. “You’re thankful for the little blessings every day.”
Faith despite uncertainty
George continues to be treated at MD Anderson in Houston, where he was fortunate to be able to receive care despite high demand because of having been seen there for his previous Stage III growth. The family is grateful for the treatment they have received there and for George’s doctors.
George also reminds everyone to be vigilant. “Don’t mess with your freckles. Early detection is key.”
Besides chemo and conventional radiation, George was in Houston last week for gamma knife radiation to again try to shrink his brain tumors.
In the meantime, he lives with flu-like symptoms and fatigue. He’s had to dramatically change his life. Because his brain tumors bleed and leave him at risk for seizures, he can no longer drive. He’s had to shift from a “natural” lifestyle to depending on potent chemicals to survive.
For now, “We’re just waiting for a miracle.” says Danielle.
It is all part of of a larger picture for this family, a higher purpose they are willing to serve. George sums it up best. “It’ll wind up being for His glory, right?”